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Kids Don’t Float School Program reaches 100,000 participants

(Anchorage, Alaska)—Alaska’s award-winning safety program for school children, Kids Don’t Float, will reach a milestone on Sept.  9 when it will surpass the 100,000-attendee mark with a class at Chugiak Elementary School.

Kids Don't Float is a statewide injury prevention program developed to address Alaska's high child and youth drowning rate. In a collaborative effort between several state and federal agencies, organizations and local grass-roots sponsors, Kids Don't Float includes life jacket loaner boards and educational programs.

The Kids Don’t Float School Program is a risk-based curriculum that uses dynamic, interactive, hands-on teaching methods to educate youth ages 5-18 about the effects of cold water immersion, the importance of wearing a life jacket, and laws pertaining to life jackets.

“By educating youth, we are empowering them with information that could be life saving,” said Kelli Toth, education specialist in the Alaska Office of Boating Safety.  “Then, by serving as boating safety ambassadors they also help influence the next generation of boaters within their community.”

Alaska Boating Law Administrator Jeff Johnson believes the program is making a difference. The U.S. Coast Guard’s national observational life jacket wear rate study revealed that Alaska’s wear rate among youth ages 13-17 is now more than 60 percent higher than the national average. 

“We hope that we are seeing the beginnings of a cultural shift in attitude about the importance of wearing life jackets when boating on Alaska’s cold water, said Johnson. “The kids that have been through our program get it, and they are sharing their discovery with others, young and old.”

While Kids Don’t Float classes were taught prior to 2005, the Office of Boating Safety began maintaining attendance records at that time.

The Kids Don't Float Program has become a model for safety educators throughout Alaska and the U.S and was the recipient of the National Safe Boating Council’s Boating Safety Youth Program Award in 2009. For more information about how to start a program in your area or to request a presentation or a class, contact Kelli Toth at 907-269-6042.

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